This is part of a series of reflections inspired by my Reforge Growth course. I'm part of a cohort of marketers learning how to develop a systematic approach to solving growth challenges. Find the whole series here.
Often, we think of growth as linear. We just need to optimize this one channel, or signup flow, or user experience, and then, growth will look like the fabled hockey stick.
To build sustainable growth, though, you have to build loops into your product, not just channels. You need to understand what loops make up the foundation of your company, and how users interact with your product.
Beware The Product Death Cycle
It's not enough to add more features; you have to add more ways for users to enjoy and share your product. If you add a feature every time your product growth stalls, all it will do is make your product more complicated and harder to use. That doesn't mean you can't add more features if it makes sense, but beware the product death cycle.
The real question to ask is, "Can my product be noticed?" We live in a noisy, over-promoted world where marketing exists in every possible communications channel. Most people are exposed to between 4,000 and 10,000 marketing messages every day.
Do The Loop-de-Loop
What will matter for growth isn't picking a distribution channel and going after it, but building sustainable loops for your users to build on itself—essentially, answering the question, "How does one group of users lead to another group?"
When you acquire new users, they come from some input. They take actions, become onboarded into your product, and then produce some output that ideally leads to more new users joining the product. It's easy to see how this can be done with social media—one of the first onboarding steps to any channel is to add your friends and invite any that aren't on the current platform.
These loops may also come from your retained users. As Nir Eyal argues in Hooked, building habit into your product is essential to get your users to come back again and again.
The key is to layer multiple retention loops over time to keep customers coming back from multiple places—accelerating your growth.
Model your loops
Growth loops serve as the hypothesis by which you'll determine your growth. Evaluate your product to understand:
- What loops are currently used by your product or by your marketing team
- What your north star metric is—what is the #1 metric you're optimizing for? Often, this should be user-based. How many active users do you have?
- What inputs make up that output. What is driving your growth right now?
This is easier said than done, of course, but by breaking each loop down into the elements that make up that loop will allow you to add a quantitative layer to your foundational understanding, prioritize your ideas, and predict what's coming next.